Caruso breaks silence on Kelly Racing exit

Michael Caruso pic: AJP Photography

Michael Caruso has broken his silence following his split with Kelly Racing ahead of the 2019 Supercars season.

The 35-year-old’s future at the Braeside operation had been in doubt as the former Nissan factory squad looks to restructure following the loss of funding from the Japanese marque.

Kelly Racing issued a brief statement confirming his departure from the team after six years, leaving Caruso without a full-time drive in the championship.

It is believed Andre Heimgartner and Garry Jacobson are in the frame to secure the two remaining seats alongside Rick Kelly and Simona De Silvestro. 

Caruso made his Supercars debut at Garry Rogers Motorsport in 2008 where he raced until joining Kelly Racing in 2013 when the team began its factory partnership with Nissan.

Reflecting on the decision, he revealed his disappointment to lose the drive but remains proud of his time at the team.

During his tenure he scored one of Nissan’s three race wins on its return to Australian touring cars with a victory at Hidden Valley in 2016. 

A strong start to the campaign that year also saw him lead the championship before going on to finish the best of the Nissan drivers in 10th spot.   

“Look, it’s sad, but also I guess a part of life,” Caruso told Speedcafe.com.

“We had a fantastic time, and a memorable time in my opinion.

“We shared a lot of success together from things like winning a race at Darwin, and leading the championship, the first time Nissan had done since the glory days of Mark Skaife and Jim Richards.

“So I’m really happy that I could achieve such things like that along with being a NISMO Athlete, and driving with them in the Bathurst 12 Hour, it obviously produced a lot of opportunities. 

“I was really proud to be a part of the whole program.”

Given the team had to develop the brand new Altima against the tried and tested Commodore and Falcon over the last six years, Caruso believes he and Kelly Racing extracted the most from the car in challenging circumstances.    

“There’s no doubt there was a lot of work to do from the very beginning, when it all started in 2013, throughout to the end, where there were three or four different aero changes,” he added.

“Obviously lots and lots of engine development needed to be done. And then again all the normal stuff.

“And there’s no doubt that, that sort of stuff will never, ever change. 

“But it’s something that I know, between myself and the guys that I worked with, we can’t say that we didn’t give it our best. 

“And that’s ultimately within the budget restraints that are obviously in all sports, you just do with what you have and give it your best shot.

“You build relationships with all these people, and there’s no doubt we’re in a business of trying to be the best at what we all do.

“But at the same time you’re working with people, and I think everybody knows that I’m very much a people’s person, and appreciate everything that they did for me, as I’m sure they appreciate that in return.

“I can’t say enough about the fans particularly as well. Nissan coming back into sport was a big thing and we had lots of great fans.”

Caruso’s future as a full-time Supercars driver remains unclear although Speedcafe.com understands the two-time race winner is in line to contest the Pirtek Enduro Cup despite missing out on a drive at Triple Eight.

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